Jeffrey Eugenides is one of the most celebrated names in contemporary American literature. From the darkly hip, deceptively slender The Virgin Suicides to the sprawling, eccentric gender adventure Middlesex, he’s known for tweaking convention. In his acclaimed latest novel, The Marriage Plot, he subverts the oldest convention in the book, delivering an end-of-the-millennium coming-of-age spiked with sly wit and Regency romance.
In conversation with Michael Williams, Eugenides discusses the decline of the novel and the death of the author, autobiographical readings of his characters and dressing for success, before reading a passage from the book concerning semiotics.
Continuing, Eugenides expounds on the usefulness of character names and research –two processes which lend ideas to the writer. “Research sometimes gives you your story, gives you your plot,” he explains. He discusses his evolution as an author, and his decision to pursue writing from a young age after initially wishing to become an actor.
Prefacing audience questions, Eugenides confesses that if he’s a little reserved, it may be at the behest of a “very scary encounter” with a fan in Auckland. He talks about his unfinished novels and where he might focus his attention after The Marriage Plot, his influences, Chapter Eleven and Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of The Virgin Suicides. He finishes, aptly, with a question about knowing when a work is complete.
Presented in partnership with Melbourne Writers Festival.
Chris Flynn is the author of The Glass Kingdom and A Tiger in Eden, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize. His latest novel is Mammoth, released in March 2020. His fiction and non-fiction have appeared in the Age, the Australian, Griffith Review, Meanjin, Australian Book Review, the Saturday Paper, Smith Journal, the Big Issue, Monster Children, McSweeney’s and many other publications. He has conducted interviews for the Paris Review and is a regular presenter at literary festivals across Australia. Chris lives on Phillip Island, next to a penguin sanctuary.
Joshua Cody’s first book is [sic], a memoir about cancer, creativity and twentysomething life in New York City.
Jeffrey Eugenides’ first novel, The Virgin Suicides (1993) was translated into 15 languages and made into a major motion picture. In 2003, Eugenides received the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Middlesex.